As he stood over the putt on 18 yesterday, Tom Watson was not thinking about me.
That makes one of us.
I had invested bits and pieces of four days pondering and rooting for a sporting miracle that would shake the foundations of all our expectations. I was begging for the ghost of a hero long gone to take on flesh and storm the Scottish plains one last time. I wanted him to hit the putt for me. My nearly every thought was ego and self.
If he hits this putt, I’ll be able to tell my son I was watching…
If he hits this putt, I’ll know that anything can happen…
If he hits this putt, I’ll feel like my own window for greatness in my life opened a little wider…
Oh, I suppose I also thought about other people too. I thought about Jack Nicklaus. I wondered how he felt about seeing his old friend and rival accomplish the impossible and remind the world how great the players from the 60s, 70s, and 80s were. Jack had 6 prime competitors with at least 4 majors each. Tiger has none.
I thought about Tiger. I wondered if he felt sick about missing the cut, but also wondered if Watson didn’t inspire him. We all figured that he had maybe 10-15 years to break Jack’s record. But now…who knows? We may be watching Tiger for another 30 years, hoping he’ll break through one last time. We’ll remember Watson at Turnberry, and wonder if anything really is possible.
I thought about Watson as well. By age 33, he had won 8 majors, but ironically his prime was shorter than that of most great golfers. He never won another. His flame went out too soon, or so we thought. Every shot of his face this weekend painted him as both quietly delighted and quietly forlorn all at the same time. It was as if he was remembering a prime so glorious that he once stood toe to toe with a Bear and lived to tell about it. The years that had piled up behind him tumbled away as the game whispered to him, “I’m still yours if you want me.” The champion’s heart warred with the wisdom of age for four days as his mind said it was impossible and his will refused to listen.
Still, much more than those men, I thought about myself.
I have kids now. They make you mortal. Didn’t Indiana Jones once say, “It’s not the years, it’s the diapers?”. No? He should have.
I thought about my job. I’m 7 years into a career that for all its rewards, doesn’t offer much tangible sense of accomplishment. You can help hundreds of people, but there are thousands more still waiting. I’m at that age where I’ve started to wonder what I’m making of myself. When do I hit my prime? How do I not waste it? Will I even know when my best chance to leave my mark on this world has passed me by?
They are all stupid, self-absorbed existential type questions, I know. It’s not like they consume my every waking moment, but they are there in the background like a Greek chorus. I shout them down by remembering incredible people who are better, stronger, wiser at 60 and 70 than they were at 30, but sometimes it’s hard to keep that focus.
Peyton Manning is 33. I turn 33 this year. He’s ‘on the downside’ of career. His prime may not last more than another season or two. It’s hard for me to hear that and by implication feel like my own prime is dwindling. It’s nonsense, but it’s part of the eternal war against wisdom and age our culture wages against us all. Watson offered an alternative. Life doesn’t end at 40. The clock is still ticking, but with enough work and a dash of providence, you can turn it back or at least hold the hands steady for few extra hours.
I wanted Watson to give that last putt a go. I wanted him to put it on line and take an honest chance. I wanted it to at least skirt the edge of the hole. I wanted it to be close enough to make me believe it was going in…even if it didn’t.
I didn’t get what I wanted. The minute the ball left the face it was dead. The same flaw that stopped the young Watson toppled the old Watson. Maybe that’s the lesson. If so, it’s not one I’m ready to absorb just yet.
When Tom Watson lined up his fateful putt, all I could think of was
myself. I wanted this. I was hoping around the room, narrating
history to my brother over the phone. My wife, whose tolerance of my
enthusiasm for sport goes only so far, chided me. “Oh no! Some guy we
don’t know might lose to some other guy we don’t know!”.
I could have snapped back that I feel like I DO know Watson. I’ve been
watching him play golf for more than 20 years. I was too young to
remember any of his great victories; he was already a legend by the
time I was aware of him. Still, I’ve seen the film. I’ve rooted for him on countless summer afternoons.
I held my tongue and didn’t answer her.
She would have mocked me if I had told her the truth. Honestly, knowing the truth myself, I wouldn’t have blamed her for it.
She didn’t know that I was thinking about me.
I hate to just vulture other people, but a couple of links bear repeating:
If you only visit one line today, make this the one. Dallas Clark is amazing.
Oehser looks at the O Line. If the line plays to previous standards…the Colts will be impossible to beat.
This was posted there as well, but it demands to be seen in as many places as possible: